The Shipping News
Study Questions and Essay Topics
E. Annie Proulx has a rich, poetic voice, and often writes in fragments. Discuss her writing style as it pertains to the overall effect of the novel.
How does the The Gammy Bird change over the course of the novel, and what role does Quoyle have in that change? Consider the newspaper's evolution within the context of the larger surge of social and technological changes in this geographic area.
Who are the four women in every man's heart, according to Billy Pretty's father? Who are they in Quoyle's life and how does each affect Quoyle's relationship with the others?
Suggested Essay Topics
Proulx has said she likes to write about people up against "mass," whether it be landscape or inevitable social change. How does Quoyle fit this scenario? Consider his epiphany on the berry-picking excursion.
The newsroom at The Gammy Bird is filled with local personality, humor, and dreamers. Describe three characters (among Tert Card, Jack Buggit, Nutbeem, Billy Pretty, and Quoyle) and show how their unique personalities and interactions help shape a
picture of Newfoundland culture and values.
How are names used symbolically in this novel? You might consider discussing the significance of "Quoyle," "Partridge," "Petal Bear," "Billy Pretty," "Wavey," "Mockingburg" and "Newfoundland."
Compare and contrast the departures of Tert Card and Nutbeem. Both men have an itching to get out of Killick-Claw, but they are motivated by different forces, and their farewells evoke different responses from the local folk. Where do these characters fit
into the dichotomy between the old and new way of life? What does their relationship to the community say about the social and economic values of the Newfoundland people?
Discuss three or four of the chapter introductions—either types of knots, or definitions. How do these explanatory notes create symbolic significance throughout the chapter and the novel as a whole?
Does this novel have a happy ending? Is it too hopeful? What is the difference between happiness and the absence of pain?